August 27, 2010

The afternoon has gently passed me by
The evening spreads it’s sail against the sky
Waiting for tomorrow, just another day
God bid yesterday good-bye

Bring on the night
I couldn’t spend another hour of daylight
Bring on the night
I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight

-The Police

I play Bring on the Night sometimes when I am getting dressed in the evening, a night out ahead of me. It gets me excited. It fuels the anticipation for what awaits, it reminds me that I love the nighttime, and how it will only end too soon. Not everybody loves the night as much as I do. Many live by day, they cannot live by day and by night. But I can, because the real fun happens when it’s dark, new alliances are forged. I can be my wildest self, and its okay.

In his first book, Notes from the Night: A Life After Dark by Broadway Books, my childhood friend, Taylor Plimpton, bravely confesses his exploits and excesses from more than ten years spent reveling in the New York night. Plimpton, son of the late author and editor of the Paris Review, George Plimpton, grew up, like his father and like me, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He spent his summers and weekends on the South Fork of Long Island, the Hamptons, Sagaponack to be exact. The memoir travels back and forth between the two places, and between Lower Manhattan and Uptown.

Notes is at once endearing, insightful, and personal. Capturing aspects of what must be true for most night owls. Themes of youth, friendship, sex, love, booze, drugs, dancing, and the ubiquitous choices that can make or break an evening. Much of the book delights in Zoo, Plimpton’s best friend, an idiosyncratic tall, dark and handsome type who doesn”€™t do much but look out for his pals, eat (minimum five meals per day), and party. Zoo is Plimpton’s buddy of choice to tool around the city with, not only because they are so close, but because Zoo has the confidence and savoir faire one needs to navigate the scene successfully.

“Nothing peeves me more than when I ask someone where they”€™re from and they say New York, and it turns out they were actually raised somewhere completely different. Living in the city does not make you a friggin”€™ New Yorker, it makes you an arriviste!”

The two have their habits, and routines, and they have their differences, but deep down what they have is an old, solid friendship. They know each other, they love each other, and they have history together. They make good wingmen. What I enjoyed most about their relationship is not so much the camaraderie, but the verbal exchanges. The dialogue is just right. Of course I haven”€™t lived in New York since the millennium, but the colloquialisms and inside jokes read just like I remember them. The writing is perfectly peppered with the lingo any kid who was born in the mid seventies and went to private school in the city would know and use.

From there comes the brilliance of the book. It is an insider’s voice. A true New York voice. Not a Brooklyn or Queens or Long Island one, but a New York City tongue. A dialect easy to imitate, but harder to own. Nothing peeves me more than when I ask someone where they”€™re from and they say New York, and it turns out they were actually raised somewhere completely different. If you are from New York, then you were born and raised there. For example, I was born on 71st street, grew up on 71st street, and went to school within twenty blocks of there. Taylor spent his life up until he became a man and moved out, on 72nd street. He went to school on 98th street. This makes you from New York. If you”€™re from Iowa, damn it, be proud of that! Living in the city does not make you a friggin”€™ New Yorker, it makes you an arriviste! And perhaps a lonely one at that, because no matter how many friends you have in the city, at work and out in clubs and bars, you don”€™t have the love, the solid, ancient circle of friends you have in your hometown.

Usually too, if one spends so much time out at night, one is, more than anything else, looking for that deeper connection, where the search for the best party is also a search for intimacy and satisfaction. This is, in part, what motivates Taylor and others like him to spend night after night on the town. But it is the dancing, the drinking, the smoking, the timing and simple pursuit of the night that makes it truly worthwhile, because on the dance floor or at a bar, lasting love is elusive. The ultimate seduction, Plimpton says is a true art. One can but agree. Adding only that perhaps the coyest seduction is that of the night itself, drawing us diurnally into its shadow with fleeting promises. Within my favorite passage from Notes, the author examines the concept that so often eludes an unsatisfied man.

This is the way it is with all human beings. It’s engrained in us to lean toward the things that shy away, and retreat from the things that advance. And this is part of the reason that the art of seduction is such a delicate matter, because you are seeking something that resists being sought.

And so to make women the sole focus of your night, your mission and only contentment, you”€™re already way off-course. In fact, you”€™re taking a path that somehow leads away from its own destination…

And then one day, after more than fifteen years of nocturnal carousing, it happened to me, when I least expected it, during the most glorious hour of the night. It was just before dawn, and there he was on the dance floor. And I wanted him too.


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